I watched many episodes of the Simpsons growing up, and one thing that always intrigued me was the Springfield "tire fire." In the town where the show takes place, there is an ongoing tire fire that is accepted (and sometimes promoted) as a part of the city. As I grew older and looked into why the writers of the Simpsons elected to include this strange feature into their TV show’s landscape, I learned that tire fires are actually a real concern and tire waste is actually a big problem.
The Canadian Association of Tire Recycling Agencies talks about a tire fire in 1990 in Hagersville, Ontario as one of the "wake up call" moments in tire recycling in Canada. A pile of waste tires caught fire and burned for 17 days, consuming roughly 12.6 million tires, spewing enormous amounts of toxic gas into the atmosphere and causing over one thousand people to be evacuated from Hagersville. This incident caused many Canadian citizens to take a more critical look at tire waste in Canada and start coming up with solutions.
Tires are a major problem for landfills sites for a number of reasons. They take up large amounts of space, they are a breeding ground for vermin and mosquitoes, they are extremely durable and resistant to decomposition, and as previously mentioned, they are a fire hazard. Tire recycling groups look to help avoid these problems and create useful products from waste tires through employing a wide range of recycling methods. In Canada, there are 6 main recycled tire products: die cut, shredded, crumb, molded, tire derived fuels and baled.
Die cut tire products are simply waste tires that have been cut into new products. Common examples are recycled tire door mats and troughs for livestock made from larger tires such as those used for tractors.
Shredded tire products are made from shredding tires into pieces roughly 1 to 3 inches in size. These shreds are then predominately used in road related applications such as retaining wall fillers and road insulation. >
Crumb tire products are created by grinding tire shreds into even finer pieces. Common examples of tire crumb uses are cushioning surfaces in playgrounds and the bases of sports fields.
Molded tire products are made from heat molding tire crumb into useful applications such as shoe soles and roofing shingles. Tire derived fuels are made from combining tire shreds with other combustibles and are used in power plants and paper mills.
Finally, baled tire waste products are essentially the tire version of bales of hay. They are large blocks of tires compressed and tied to gether that can be used as building material.
All in all, tire recycling is an important component of reducing landfill waste and environmental harm. If you would like to contribute your used tires to the tire recycling process and help minimize tire waste, then just search for tire collection events or centers in your neighbourhood. Feel free to check out the Canadian Association of Tire Recycling Agencies or your own provincial website (such as the Ontario Tire Stewardship) for more information!